For them, adversity is the mother of invention. Cesc Fabregas entered the arena on crutches to take his place behind the bench and watch the game. As five minutes of added time ticked down, it seemed Arsenal would be exiting the Emirates with their championship challenge looking similarly limp as a result of an afternoon of lame finishing.
Priceless: Nicklas Bendtner nods the winner
Enter Nicklas Bendtner. In the fourth of those added minutes, theDane headed a powerful and precious goal and suddenly Arsenal were backin the title race, just three points behind Chelsea and one behindManchester United.
Astonishingly, it was the ninth consecutive game in which Arsenalhave scored a goal in the last 10 minutes and extended their unbeatenleague run to nine matches, eight of them victories.
Willing, workmanlike Wolverhampton Wanderers players sank to theturf in disappointment, that of admirable goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemannthe greatest.
They had, after all, battled gamely for half an hour with 10 menfollowing the questionable dismissal of their captain, Karl Henry, fora tackle from behind on Tomas Rosicky. The consolation is they will,with such application, surely avoid relegation.
'If honesty, endeavour and teamwork keep a team in the league thenwe have every chance,' said manager Mick McCarthy, who even relishedbeing booed off by home fans. 'Bothered,' was his response.
Pressure? Arsene Wenger saw his side toil against Wolves
Arsene Wenger was relieved, meanwhile: 'It would have been finished if we hadn't won,' he admitted.
'You know if you are five points behind Chelsea with five games to go you can forget it. With three points, it is feasible.'
He put their propensity for late goals down to 'mental tenacity,'adding: 'We also take advantage of our technical superiority in thelast part of a game.'
Now Arsenal can still reach the 86-point target the manager has setthem and all their Easter eggs are not in one basket as theirinjury-ravaged squad heads to Spain for their Champions Leaguequarter-final second leg on Tuesday looking for an unlikely win overBarcelona.
The pace of Theo Walcott, on view again yesterday, should at leastoffer some hope. Walcott continued where he left off against Barca inmidweek and, had Arsenal taken just a couple of the early chances hecreated, there would have been no need for the angst that ensued.
Chasing pack: Theo Walcott - handed a place in the starting line-up - view with Matthew Jarvis
Courtesy of the winger's runs and low crosses, Eduardo had twoopportunities, but saw Hahnemann save his shot one-handed before thenmissing his kick in front of goal.
The goalkeeper also saved, with his left leg, Bacary Sagna's driveafter being put in by Walcott, who next cut the ball back for EmmanuelEboue but he dithered and his backheel was blocked. Walcott then had ago himself, his volley from 20 yards clutched gratefully by Hahnemann.
In the face of such waste, Wenger introduced Bendtner, though thegame swung just as much on the exit of Henry, shown a red card byreferee Andre Marriner for fouling Rosicky from behind. Even Wenger wassympathetic. 'It was unlucky,' he said. 'I didn't see any maliciousintent.'
'There were quite a few Arsenal players helping the referee make his decision,' McCarthy observed.
With their ability to move the ball swiftly, Arsenal should now haveprofited from the extra man but struggled instead, finding Hahnemann ininspired form.
Finally in added time, Walcott finishing well after looking to havefaded set up Sagna for a cross, which Bendtner met ahead of RonaldZubar to plant firmly past Hahnemann from eight yards. In the Nick oftime indeed.
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